Design ⇅ Research ⇄ Sociology
Gender ⇆ Visual Culture ⇅ Fashion
Floriane Misslin
Diagramming Something Missing:
The Display of Fashion Beyond Gender
This project researches how producers of fashion photography actualise the fluidity of gender in an industry dominantly established on modes of production and consumption based on the gendered binary womenswear / menswear. The fashion editors, art directors and photographers who took part in this research operate their practice as an exploratory space to challenge the bond between dress and gender. Throughout series of interviews with each participant, diagrams are activated to reorganise transcripts into manifestos uncovering different means of making a gender fluid approach to fashion more visible in visual culture.
The project has obtained 'exceptional' distinction in Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths University. It is currently being displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.
Diagramming *Something Missing*:
The *Actualisation* of *Gender Fluidity* in the Production of Fashion Photography
❛ Across the series of interviews, a gender fluid approach to fashion has been mentioned as *something missing* in both the clothing industry and its visual culture. ❜
❛ The notion of *actualisation* is used here to convey the conditions through which the virtual and actual are brought together, materialised and made visible via the interface of fashion photography. ❜
❛ This research follows Deleuzian perspectives in which ‘gender can be understood as a relation bodies connect and engage with’ (Coffey, 2013, p. 9). [...] Following this definition of gender, I understand *gender fluidity* to be the multiplicity of connections being made through bodies. [...] Actualising the fluidity of gender would thus be questioning the connectivity and identification of signifiers to established gendered organisation. It looks into the emergence of differences ‘between norm and that which the norm supposedly orders, organizes and represents’ (Colebrook, 2004, p. 293). ❜
⤓ Bibliography for the extracts of the essay are at the bottom of the page
❛ Coleman’s argument suggests that gender, as it is actualised in visual culture, conditions the becoming of the bodies experiencing these images. In contemporary capitalism, images are central to the production and arrangement of ‘the kinds of expectations, promises and visions that can become material(ized)’ (2013, p. 22). She writes; ‘[b]odies are made possible, and impossible, through their relations with images’ (Coleman, 2009, p. 2). ❜
The research asks;
How can fashion photography producers navigate a gender fluid approach to fashion in an industry dominantly focused on the gender binary?
How can such visions of gender fluidity actualise through what the industry makes available in terms of models, clothing and platforms?
What restricts them, and how do they find alternative solutions?
How can we represent and signify what is beyond a gendered fashion system?
And how is the dominant system made present or absent in visions of this beyond?
Diagrammatic Manifestos = Diagramming the Manifestos ⟶ from Transcripts ⟶ to Manifestos
Each manifesto outlines the insights shared by a participant through a series of interview. The series of diagrams produced marks the movements of translation and interpretation in my analysis of the participants’ accounts that reorganise the qualitative data from transcripts to manifestos. I used diagrams as devices to co-produce, together with the participants of the research, a manifesto expressing the singularity of their approach to gender fluidity in their production of fashion photography.
On Diagramming as Data Analysis
❛ This slow and complex analysis unfolding through the diagrams allows an interpretation of the data that goes beyond what is said and how it is said, but rather what it means in the context of my research question. Diagramming embraces the complexities, textures and mess emerging from contradictions or anecdotes that cannot be fragmented into coding (see Coleman and Ringrose, 2013). It prioritises ‘movement, becoming, difference, heterogeneity and that which exceeds ‘capture’ by language’ (MacLure, 2013, p. 164). The repetitions and contradictions occurring between the series of interviews set the diagrams into motion. Areas of the diagrams are slowly mutated, erased or expanded. ❜
Collaboration Between Researcher and Participant
❛ Diagrammatic manifestos are dialogic devices central to the interaction between researcher and research participants. The use of diagrams during the research process makes visible the process of analysing and interpreting data. It enacts the transfer of knowledge and reveals sociological methods to the participants as ‘a form of translation, a creative process’ (Guggenheim, 2011, p. 69). Thus, the participants can track the reorganisation of their descriptions as it becomes content for their own manifesto. ❜
Movements of Translation
❛ To Zdebik, the classifying process of diagrams is a ‘movement of translation’ occurring in a graphic space ‘between the visual and the textual’ (2012, p. 71). This reorganisation filters out ‘excessive elements from reality and translates the essential elements’ (Zdebik, 2012, p. 66). Each diagram is a fragment, a passage to another, a step further in reaching the content of the manifesto. ❜
Unfolding Utopias
❛ Although diagrams ‘display the abstract functions that make up a system’ (Zdebik, 2012, p. 1), they can also describe the potentiality of a different system. To Conley (1998), diagramming widens gaps between the virtual and the actual in which can unfold fantasies and ideals. ❜
❛ Diagrammatic manifestos are diagrammatic not only because they are constituted through diagrams, but because they are future-making. They employ diagrammatic qualities of not only being reproductive, but simply productive (Zdebik, 2012, p. 71). Conley (1998) argues that diagrams are not archives but active lines that can come to motion through the action of their users. He sees diagrams as machines of becoming, whose outlines are folds that can unfold infinities depending on their users. ❜
The Aesthetics of a Work in Progress
❛ On the diagrammatic manifestos appear the traces of the diagrams that contributed to their formulation. Their aesthetics convey the temporality of a work in progress, a work towards an approximate future. It draws on Muñoz’s argument of utopia not being prescriptive of a fixed schema but rather rendering ‘potential blueprints of a world not quite here, a horizon of possibility’ (Muñoz, 2009, p. 97). ❜
↘ The Diagrammatic Manifestos ↘ Click on the images to open them as larger files
Fragments of the manifestos ↴
❛ A book archives the diagrammatic manifestos and most of the diagrams that contributed to the research process. The book has a loose bind which suggest that the publication can be unfolded at any time, the manifestos being distributed, the diagrams be re-arranged and displayed wherever, whenever, by and for whoever.
Publication is a highly valued outcome in the field of fashion photography. All participants have mentioned paper publication as a celebratory outcome for the produced images. The outcome of the research is hence celebrated as a printed publication. ❜

⤷ The publication is still a work in progress as I am looking for publishing opportunities!
⤷ The project is part of the show Designs for Different Futures.
Starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts (US) this October, the exhibition is on until March 2020 to then open at The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, US) (September 2020 to January 2021) and the Art Institute of Chicago (January 2021 to May 2021)
Posters are distributed to the visitors: click to see them ⟶
↘ Installation at the show S.N.A.C.K [ Sociology is Not Complete Knowledge ]
↕︎ The manifestos were printed over the fragments of transcripts and diagrams that help constituting the manifestos of each participant during the research process and thus expose the flux of the data analysis.
✳︎ Thanks to
the participants of the research;
Verv London,
Tanmay Saxena from LaneFortyFive,
Saorla Houston from Dazed Beauty,
Nicole Ngai,
Henri T Art,
Vic Lentaigne,
the anonymous participants,
Rebecca Coleman, my supervisor for the dissertation at Visual Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London,
Michelle Fisher from the Philadelphia Museum of Arts and Maite Borjabad from the Art Institute of Chicago for their trust,
Juliette Pepin and Ida Holmegaard for their precious help.
Coffey, J., 2013. Bodies, Body Work and Gender: Exploring a Deleuzian Approach. Journal of Gender Studies 22, 3–16.
Colebrook, C., 2004. Postmodernism Is a Humanism: Deleuze and Equivocity. Women: A Cultural Review 15, 283–307.
Coleman, R., 2013. Transforming Images Screens, Affect, Futures. Routledge.
Coleman, R., 2009. The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience. Manchester University Press.
Conley, T., 1998. Mapping in the Folds: Deleuze Cartographe. Discourse 20, 123–138.
Guggenheim, M., 2011. The Proof Is In the Pudding. On “Truth to Materials” in STS, Followed by an Attempt to Improve It. 65–86.
MacLure, M., 2013. Classification or Wonder: Coding as an Analytic Practice in Qualitative Research, in: Coleman, R., Ringrose, J. (Eds.), Deleuze and Research Methodologies. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 164–177.
Muñoz, J., 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press.
Zdebik, J., 2012. Deleuze and the Diagram: Aesthetic Threads in Visual Organization. Continuum.